Enjoying our Time in and around Homer

We were so lucky, again this summer, to be visited by our neighbors and friends, Dave and Peggy Armstrong. They visited us in Montana last summer and in Homer this summer. While they had family and friends to visit, we still got to spend quite a bit of time together.  Between fish frys at the RV park and a contribution to the legendary Salty Dawg Saloon, we explored the town of Homer from top to bottom. 

One day we all took the ferry to the cute village of Seldovia. Located across Kachemak Bay, Seldovia is advertised as “Alaska’s Best Kept Secret.” There is no road system connecting the town to other communities, so all travel is by boat or plane.

The small seaside town boasts dozens of wood carvings and was brimming with flowers. This place oozed Alaska charm.

If you have Homer on your itinerary we highly recommend a day trip to Seldovia!

On another day, Peggy, Sam, and I set out on a small boat across the Bay to the trailhead for the Glacier Lake, Grewingk Tram, and Saddle Trails. We weren’t really sure what we were in for but…wow!

First we hiked to the tram, which is used to transport hikers across the roaring river. The tram is operated by hand and thank goodness we had Sam to help us pull ourselves across. Peggy and I each went out over the water, but Sam passed on that adventure. 

Next we continued our hike to the Grewingk Glacier Lake, which is fed by the Grewingk Glacier.   The lake is filled with large chunks of ice which have broken off the glacier. The floating ice along the shore were an extraordinary sight!

We finished our 8.5 mile hike at the beach in Halibut Cove where our boat picked us up and took us back to Homer. What a fun day!

While we focused on hiking, Steve and Dave got in some halibut and salmon fishing. On two separate days they got out on the water. One trip was highly successful with each guy catching their limit of sockeye salmon.

The fish has already made it back to AZ and is in our freezer awaiting our return!

Steve continues to capture the amazing array of wildflowers that bloom across Alaska in the summertime. We don’t know the names of them all, but they sure are pretty.

Summer is certainly a beautiful time to be exploring Alaska. It’s hard to imagine what it’s like here in the winter, but we’re certainly enjoying the season.

The Bears of Katmai

If you only have one thing on your bucket list, might we suggest it be a visit to Katmai National Park to see the bears at Brooks Falls? It’s been on our list since we found the live webcam of the bears. We’ve checked in on these bears occasionally for awhile and couldn’t wait to finally meet them in person. 

Our adventure through Bald Mountain Air took us via floatplane from Homer to the shores of Brooks Camp. We landed on the water and walked the beach to the nearby ranger station.

There we attended Bear Watching 101 class and earned our passage into the park. We needed to know how to stay safe in a wilderness where over 2,200 bears roam free.

We walked about a quarter mile before we saw our first bears—mama and her FOUR cubs! We watched as the mama bear caught a fish, brought it to her cubs, and the cubs fought over it. It was nothing short of incredible. 

From there we walked across the Brooks River and had to stop our progress to let another big one pass by.

After about a mile walk to the official viewing platforms we watched the action for several hours. 

We learned so much about bears while in Katmai. Here are a few facts that we found interesting:

  • All grizzly bears are brown bears but not all brown bears are grizzlies. Technically, the difference is in what they eat and their proximity to the coast. The bears in Katmai are coastal brown bears.
  • The bears come to Brooks Falls because of the large number of salmon that move through the river. July is the best time to see the bears because this is when the salmon numbers are highest.
  • The bears have different fishing styles. A few examples are “stand and wait,” “sit and wait,” “snorkeling,” and “diving.” Here’s a video of the “stand and wait” method.
  • Bear cubs stay with their mothers for 2.5 years. During the first year they are called “springs” (born in the spring) and in the second year they are called yearlings. We watched a mother nurse her two yearlings, right under the viewing platform. 
  • Katmai’s bears typically only eat the skin, brains, and eggs of the salmon, which are the fattiest parts. This allows them to maximize the calories while managing their energy output. 

Even though this excursion took all day, our time at Brooks Falls was way too short. We would love to return again someday to spend more time with these magnificent creatures. In the meantime, we’ll be watching the bearcam regularly!

Seward: Alaska’s 4th of July HQ

We deliberately planned our Alaska itinerary so we could be in Seward for the fourth of July. Seward is kind of the center of the July 4th universe in Alaska, where the town of about 3,000 residents balloons to about 30,000 for the weekend. The beautiful setting, great weather, and expansive camping opportunities are just the start of the attraction. We’ll break it down.

Seward sits at the foot of Mount Marathon, a 3,000 foot vertical climb on less than a mile and a half trail. The infamous Mount Marathon race is run every fourth of July and draws crazy trail runners from all over.

How crazy? The leading racers run the top of the mountain in about 35 minutes and descend in about 10 minutes. We watched the men’s and women’s race from downtown with binoculars and cheered the runners on as they crossed the finish line. Here’s this year’s winner, Max King, nearing the finish with a final time of 43:37.

In between the men’s and women’s races the town hosts a parade right down the race course and everyone turns out! 

We weren’t crazy enough to hike the runner’s trail but we did take on the Mt Marathon hiker’s trail, which is a little longer and more scenic. Still very steep, the hike afforded us great views of the town and harbor and gave us a sense of what it might be like to take on the race challenge. 

Fourth of July wouldn’t be complete without fireworks, and Seward puts on a show. We took our chairs to the harbor and watched the fun boat parade at 11:00 p.m.

The fireworks show followed at 12:01 a.m. on the morning of July 4th. We think the hour had something to do with the fact that it doesn’t get dark until after 11:00 p.m. Here a few shots with the bursts over Mt. Marathon.

When we last posted a blog the guys were out fishing. Well, it was a successful trip as the waters near Seward are very fertile. They came home with bags of fillets that totaled four pounds of rockfish, 12 pounds of halibut, and 29 pounds of cod!

We tried to package it up and freeze it but eventually took it to the professionals when we realized what a job we had before us!

After leaving Seward we spent a few nights in the small Russian village of Ninilchik. The cute Russian Orthodox church that overlooks Cook Inlet kept us mesmerized. It’s a popular stop on the way to Homer.

Then Steve caught another 14 pounds of Halibut on a day trip out of Ninilchik. What are we going to do with all this fish?

Steve continues to shoot the flowers that abound in Alaska this time of year. Here are a few from our time in and around Seward.

Our next stop is Homer, and oh boy is that gonna be fun!